The Group on Earth Observations Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO GNOME) is a GEO Work Programme Initiative that seeks to connect and facilitate access to diverse sources of mountain observation data and information regarding drivers, conditions, and trends in biophysical and socio-economic processes of change at different scales.

GEO GNOME is co-led by the MRI and the National Research Council of Italy.

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Project Background

Mountains are globally distributed environments that produce significant societal benefits. However, the ability of mountain regions to provide goods and services to both highland and lowland populations is seriously threatened by climatic and environmental changes, large-scale political and socio-economic transformations, unsustainable management of natural resources, and major gaps in the understanding of mountain systems. Decisions on policy and investment, from the level of local governments to international agencies, must be based on information and knowledge that reflects both the generalities and specificities of mountain regions. In addition, decision makers must confront the paucity of observations in high-altitude regions and relatively poor levels of understanding of mountain social-ecological systems.

The Group on Earth Observations Global Network for Observations and Information in Mountain Environments (GEO-GNOME) is a GEO Work Programme Initiative launched in 2016, that aims at bringing together research institutions and mountain observation networks to collate and make available transboundary and inter- and transdisciplinary environmental and social-ecological data and information on global change in mountains. This is expected to facilitate access to key data and information to the research community for studies applicable to global assessments such as IPCC, as well as information for local, national and regional decision-makers, ensuring that ‘mountains’ as a topic is incorporated in the process of global agendas such as the 2030 UN Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), on climate change through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and UNFCCC, as well as Sendai Framework for disaster risk reduction.


Upcoming GEO GNOME Events

  • GEO GNOME at GEO Week | Porth Elizabeth, South-Africa | 2 - 6 November 2020


Activities for the 2020-2022 Term

The overarching logic of the GEO-GNOME objectives and related activities is to begin with existing datasets that are either clipped to mountain regions or are non-global legacy datasets pertaining to specific areas or specific themes. These provide a platform for mountain-related observations. Focused campaigns related to known issues, such as the investigation of the elevational dependence of climate change, will generate new data and new insights needed to convert data into knowledge and insight into the function of mountain regions. The final tasks anticipate knowledge needs of global policy frameworks to ensure that GEO-GNOME data information can be useful in these new policy frameworks (e.g. SDGs).

Since GEO-GNOME aims to provide a global picture of mountains, especially with respect to knowledge and information needs, it will support a variety of global decision-making processes, exemplified by the SDGs and other key global policy contexts. GEO-GNOME does not take a narrow disciplinary or purely technical focus. Rather, in placing great emphasis on social-ecological systems and especially how they respond to drivers (including policy), the Initiative is already well aligned with this policy environment and able to anticipate the kinds of questions policy makers typically ask.

In 2020, a GEO-GNOME Secretariat was established at the MRI to specifically focus attention on the implementation of the objectives and tasks specified in the Work Programme.

Summary of planned activities and outputs of the current Work Programme (2020-2022):

  1. Global Mountain Explorer (visualization tool based on different mountain definitions) will be made accessible via the GEO GEOSS portal, specifically the GEO-GNOME GEOSS portal currently in Beta;
  2. The identification and publication of a list of Essential Climate Variables (ECVs) for monitoring mountain climatic conditions and understand key processes in mountain environments globally, to be documented in an associated position paper or publication;
  3. The identification and publication of lists of non-climatic (e.g. biodiversity, social, socio-ecological) essential variables for mountains, to be documented in associated position papers or publications;
  4. The undertaking of analyses seeking to link both fundamental knowledge gaps and user needs with the essential variable data that would be needed to address them, to be documented in a publication;
  5. Publication and advertisement of datasets and links to other data archives/portals (through GEO GEOSS) of essential mountain variables (both climatic and non-climatic);
  6. Specification of measurement standards and protocols for detecting elevation-dependent climate change that are applicable across several mountain regions, with an associated publication;
  7. A series of webinars and workshops to communicate results and engage with the community.

The full Work Programme can be accessed here

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Past GEO-GNOME Events

Past Achievements

The first aims and objectives of the GEO-GNOME were outlined in the GEO-GNOME 2017-2019 Work Plan, which was revised as part of the GEO-GNOME workshop in May 2018. A reorganisation and reformulation of objectives and tasks were agreed upon by the GEO-GNOME co-leads and participating core group members. The outcomes of the workshop were presented in a peer-reviewed publication in Mountain Research and Development (See Adler et al. 2018).

GEO GNOME Outputs and Products:

User Engagement

Being co-led by the Mountain Research Initiative (MRI) and with its links to Future Earth, GEO-GNOME subscribes to the notion of co-production of knowledge and user engagement. Under these principles, the use of new scientific knowledge in policy or decision-making is enhanced to the extent that policy and decision makers are actively engaged in the creation of that new knowledge. To achieve co-production within mountain regions, GEO-GNOME engages policy actors in a formal and on-going consultation process that will provide guidance regarding not only the nature of data they need but also their preferred means for accessing it and other technical aspects.


Specific commitments to date include:

  1. Over the period of the GEO Work Programme 2017-2019, the MRI invested considerable resources into GEO-GNOME. This investment facilitated the planning and hosting of a GEO-GNOME scoping workshop in May 2018, as well as the coordination and participation in subsequent publications to report on the outcomes and already achieved objectives.
  2. The Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency supports GEO-GNOME activities in improving the access and use of mountain observation data and information services as part of its Adaptation at Altitude collaborative programme.
  3. The USGS Land Change Science Program provided support for delineating mountain regions (Objective 1 in 2017-2018), and continues to engage in the development and design of future activities.
  4. The EU H2020-funded project ECOPOTENTIAL, coordinated by CNR-DTA (National Research Council - Department of Earth System Science and Environmental Technologies), explored the use of Earth observations for the management of ecosystems, with mountain ecosystems as a specific sub-category. It was conceived as a EU contribution to GEO and has contributed in-kind to Objectives 2 and 3 in 2017-2019.
  5. The NextData project, which was lead by CNR-DTA and ended in December 2018, has also contributed to objectives 2 and 3 in 2017-2019 through the work of its researchers who are also involved in GEO-GNOME (in-kind contribution).
  6. Tasks completed in 2017-2019 under Objectives 2 and 3 were funded largely by the participants themselves (in-kind contributions), as well as through small contributions and grants by MRI, Future Earth and the European Space Agency.



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Elisa Palazzi (CNR/Italy)

Coordination (GEO GNOME Scientific Officer):
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Members: Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, EC, Ethiopia, France, Italy (ISAC-CNR), Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, Uganda, UK, USA (USGS)
Participating Organizations: ILTER, ICIMOD, UNEP, UNOOSA, WMO


Linkages with other GEO Initiatives

AmeriGEO, GEO BON, GEO Human Planet, GEO ECO


Supported By

GEO-GNOME is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC)

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